CHARLESTON - A St. Albans man is suing West Virginia-American Water Company for allegedly participating in unfair and deceptive practices.

In December 2009, Roger F. Holt received a bill from the defendant totaling $5,136.91, an amount that was significantly larger than his typical water bills, which had been approximately $21 and $30, he says. He notified the defendant and the Public Service Commission of West Virginia of the bill, which be believed to be erroneous, according to a complaint filed April 4 in Kanawha Circuit Court.

Holt claims in December 2009 and January 2010, David Foster of the Public Service Commission inspected his water line to determine whether a leak had caused the extraordinarily high water bill, but Foster was unable to find a leak on the line and surmised that the bill may have resulted from a faulty meter.

On Jan. 12, 2010, American Water Field Service Representative Bobby Burrell examined the meter connected to Holt's water line and Burrell found the collar on the meter to be cracked and leaking and found water in the meter box, according to the suit.

Holt claims while attempting to extract the meter for testing, Burrell broke the collar, causing a jet of water to shoot into the air and causing the leak to worsen, which meant the meter and its component parts to be replaced, after which the large leak stopped.

The meter box and all of its component parts are controlled by the defendant and the defendant understood in January 2010 that the source of the leak was the meter box and/or its component parts and "understood... that it was responsible for the leak," according to the suit.

Holt claims despite this understanding, the defendant withheld this information and demanded payment of more than $5,000 and when he did not pay the full amount demanded, late fees and/or penalties were assessed to his account.

On April 15, 2010, Holt filed a formal complaint with the PSC and afterward, the defendant agreed to reimburse him for charges related to the large leak, according to the suit.

Holt claims on May 3, 2010, the defendant notified him of a small second leak it believed to be on his side of the line and the leak had added roughly $250 per month to his water bill between January and June 2010.

The plaintiff never realized that the additional charges were due to a second leak because the defendant had not informed Holt that the cause of the large overcharge from December had been corrected and, after being credited for the large first leak, Holt hired a contractor, who was able to find and repair the second leak by early June 2010, according to the suit.

Holt claims the defendant would not credit the charges associated with the second leak because the defendant's leak adjustment policy allowed for only one hidden leak adjustment.

Under the leak adjustment policy, Holt was required to replace his entire water line in order to receive further credits, according to the suit.

Holt claims before the second leak was fixed, a third leak was discovered and the defendant replaced the entire water line.

The defendant engaged in unfair or deceptive acts or practices against Holt in the conduct of its trade or commerce, according to the suit.

Holt claims the defendant violated West Virginia code and caused him damages.

Holt is seeking compensatory damages with pre- and post-judgment interest. He is being represented by John H. Tinney and Wesley M. Jarrell II of the Tinney Law Firm PLLC.

The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge James C. Stucky.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 13-C-656

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